The Boston Celtics survived a grueling series after a hard-fought Game 7 win over the Washington Wizards last night, moving on to a slot in the Eastern Conference Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers. A 29-point performance by star Isaiah Thomas and a surprise 26-point showing from Kelly Olynyk contributed to Boston’s 115-105 victory. The Celtics will make their first Eastern Conference Finals appearance since the final year of The Big Three’s prime in 2012.
While the Wizards had the more impressive starting lineup of the two teams this series, Washington struggled when they needed to lean on a very shallow bench. Bradley Beal, with 38 points; Otto Porter, with 20 points; and John Wall, with 18 points and 11 assists, did their best to construct a substantial enough lead for their bench to at least protect. Meanwhile, Boston had a strong second team, led by Olynyk. His 14 fourth-quarter points in Game 7 were a key contributor to Boston finally coming out on top.
The Cavaliers will enter the series with an eight-game winning streak, having swept their playoff series against the Indiana Pacers and the Toronto Raptors so far this postseason. They also have a lot of rest to fight off the fatigue the Celtics will be dealing it, as Cleveland has not needed to play a game since May 7. One of the few advantages Boston can claim is home court, as the Cavaliers’ late-season struggles knocked them down to a seed lower than Boston entering the playoffs. Boston head coach Brad Stevens recognizes the odds are against them: “I think they’re better than any of the four times we played them [this season], including the last one, where they smashed us. So we’re going to have to play really well.” The last time the Cavaliers faced the Celtics in the playoffs, which occurred in 2015, Cleveland executed a four-game sweep.